5.2 The development of skills required for identifying and using online resources
The accurate identification of organisms is crucial when measuring the biodiversity of an area (Figure 12). Without accurate identification, it can be impossible to determine how many species are present. Identification is also an essential prerequisite when attempting to find out more about the ecology of a species, for, once a species has been identified, it is often possible to look up a whole range of ecological information about it. There are now many online databases and scientific publications that provide detailed information about a huge number of named species. Once you have the name of a species, a web search will also indicate its life history, potential problems that it might face or cause, and links to related scientific papers.
Obtaining a species identification is usually possible using a biological key, which uses a series of attributes – usually morphological characters – to guide the user through a series of questions that enable him or her to separate one species from all the rest. The ability to use biological keys is a valuable skill.
There are many ways of finding further information about a species. A good source of information is iSpotnature.org, which will provide you not only with the identity of a species but also with its scientific name. There are also databases and publications available that have a clear link to reputable academic or conservation organisations, such as GBIF’s biodiversity database or local nature organisations and museums.